Committee of the Whole
While the powers and duties and municipal corporations are required to be exercised by its Council, it is common practice for municipal councils to implement a system of standing committees or advisory committees to share work load, assist with decision making and to allow for more informal deliberations.
Generally, municipal standing committees are committees composed entirely of members of Council (but not the whole council) that have a mandate to make recommendations to Council regarding a specific operational area. Common examples are: Finance Committees, Planning Committees, Personnel Committees, etc. By this means, Councils seek to divide up the Council work load (which in large municipalities could otherwise be onerous) among their members. This system also allows for Councillors to develop a degree of expertise in an area of interest which would not otherwise be possible.
Another common committee structure is "Committee of the Whole". In this instance, the standing committee is made up of all the members of Council. As all members are involved in the committee meetings, this structure does not offer a work-sharing advantage but it does allow for the members to conduct the deliberations in a more informal manner than in a Council meeting. A procedural by-law governing the conduct of Council meetings may, for example, provide that a member may speak to an item only once or provide a strict dress protocol. Rules of debate in Committee of the Whole are generally more relaxed and informal and less intimidating for citizens who may be a delegate on a particular issue.
Port Colborne Council uses a Committee of the Whole system on a regular basis; however, since January 2007 a Finance Committee has also been in existence.
Committee of the Whole meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday of the month, excepting the month of December when only one meeting is held, commencing at 6:30 p.m. unless there is a preceding Special Council meeting and the Mayor acts as Chair. Committee of the Whole Meetings, with specific and limited exceptions, must be open to the public.
Decisions made in Committee of the Whole are not binding due to the requirement that the powers and duties of the municipal corporation be exercised by its Council, by by-law at a legally called and constituted Council meeting. Committee of the Whole therefore makes recommendations to Council and those recommendations do not have legal status until they are adopted at a Council meeting. Port Colborne Council considers the Committee of the Whole recommendations at its regular Council meeting held immediately following the Committee of the Whole meeting.
For more detailed information regarding Committee of the Whole, please refer to the Council's procedural by-law by following this link, By-law 4314/150/02.